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Murray Journal

Singing in the rain no more: Amphitheater renovations include roof over stage

Aug 31, 2017 01:32PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Murray City received several donations to help pay for the cost of the renovations. Salt Lake County gifted the city $1,475,000 for the project that costed near $3 million to complete. (Kim Sorenson)

By Jessica Parcell | [email protected]

Dozens of performances have been seen on the stage of Murray City’s Amphitheater, but after the recent renovations to the outdoor theater, a newcomer would never know the place started out as—almost literally—a hole in the ground.

Doug Hill, Murray City’s Public Services director, said that it didn’t even have a public restroom.

“In 1985, when they originally built it, it had seating for 700 people, it had a stage, a loading dock, and two storage rooms,” Hill said.

The city attraction finally received said addition in 1988, but until recently had remained very much the same. The staging arena still lacked accommodations like a green room and dressing room for the actors, and a ticket booth and concessions for the audience members who came to see the performances.

 Hill said the remodeling began in September 2016 and most efforts were completed by the middle of August. While final details were still being done, the city decided to put the cherry on top a little early and put on their production of “The Music Man.”

Will Saxton, the director of the city’s production of “The Music Man”, said via email the remodeled amphitheater is a fantastic facility that he is proud to be affiliated with.

“‘The Music Man’ cast and I are proud to be performing the inaugural production in this new space, and the audience is going to love the amphitheater and the show,” Saxton said.

Hill said while there was still some construction to be finished on the amphitheater, he was confident that it was completed enough to put on the performance of the musical. 

The Murray Park amphitheater’s cosmetic surgery came with a pretty price tag. The renovations on the facility capped off at around $3 million. The city did not have to bear the burden of the cost all on their own. Hill said they were able to get help from several organizations.

“Salt Lake County pitched in about $1,475,000,” Hill said. 

The county’s contribution came from what Hill explained is called the TRCC (Tourism Recreation Cultural and Convention) fund and was awarded to Murray City. Other donations pooled into the city’s budget from The Sorenson Foundation, The Wheeler Foundation, and The Eccles Foundation.

Though the amphitheater had served the city well in its near 32 years of business, Hill said there were still many problems that they wanted to fix such as shielding the actors from the elements during a performance.

“When it rained, there wasn’t a roof over the stage,” Hill said. “The props and the stage would get wet, so sometimes we would have to cancel the shows, because we didn’t have a way of keeping the stage dry.”

Other problems included there was no place for the actors to change. During show nights and rehearsals, the crew would have to set up temporary tents to give the performers privacy, and there was no ticket booth. Hill said the amenity that functioned as their ticket booth was a scant structure made of plywood. 

That on top of no adequate restrooms, concessions, or control booth led to the decision to invest in the city’s arts culture.

“Plus, when you came into the amphitheater you came through the back door,” Hill said. “When we decided to renovate it we wanted to fix all those problems.”

The renovations did more than simply upgrade the inadequate functionality of the amphitheater, they also beautified the area. Hill said along with the practical upgrades to the facility they added a plaza area with benches and landscaping.

The amphitheater would also be bringing in a public art piece, for which Hill said the money came from donations that raised about $15,000. The art piece was selected by the Arts Advisory Board who sent out requests for proposals and had several artists submit their work for the display piece.

Hill said that Murray City has the reputation of a community that supports the arts. The city has a symphony, a band, a ballet center and even a non-profits arts council that puts on many productions at the amphitheater. He said it’s because of this reputation that the city has been so supportive of the arts.

“I think more importantly, I heard someone say one time that until your city has an arts organization then you really have not arrived as a city,” Hill said.